Alexandra Pelosi has roamed the U.S. Capitol for decades, shooting video of her mother, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Alexandra has popped into bill signing ceremonies. Stood in the rear at press conferences. Shot voluminous hours of video of the speaker walking from her office near the Capitol Rotunda, across the marble, black and white checked floor of Statuary Hall, up a small ramp and into the House chamber.
This is what Alexandra does. She’s a documentary filmmaker. She made a splash shooting “Journeys with George,” a film on the 2000 campaign trail with President George W. Bush. Among Alexandra’s other films: a HBO documentary on the 2004 Democratic presidential sweepstakes titled “Diary of a Political Tourist.” She produced a 2017 film on the Constitution titled “The Words that Built America.”
It’s long been suspected that, down the line, Alexandra will dig deep into her thousands of hours of footage and produce a documentary about her mom, the first female speaker of the House.
This background about Alexandra Pelosi’s film exploits is important.
The House committee investigating last year’s riot at the Capitol played never-before-seen video from Alexandra’s film archive at its final public meeting last week. Alexandra’s video showed compelling images of the speaker, alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., working the phones from a secure location at Fort McNair, two miles away from the Capitol during the 1/6 siege.
The striking video shows Pelosi and Schumer begging military and local governors to summon the cavalry to stop the riot.
At one point in the video, an aide off-camera tells Pelosi that authorities instructed lawmakers still on the House floor to don tear gas masks and escape hoods.
The speaker appears stricken.
“Do you believe this?” asks an incredulous Pelosi to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., leaning against a lectern with his chin in his palm.
The video then shows Pelosi and Schumer barking at acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to quell the violence with federal law enforcement. Schumer, using his fabled flip phone, then calls – as he characterizes him – “the effing secretary of defense.”
“We have some senators who are still in their hideaways. They need massive personnel now. Can you get the Maryland National Guard to come, too?” implores Schumer of acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.
Pelosi is then seen making a request to then Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), to dispatch the Virginia National Guard.
“Oh my gosh. They’re just breaking windows,” says a troubled Pelosi, looking at live TV coverage of the riot.
One portion of the video shows Pelosi, Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., and House Minority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., huddled around a phone with Miller on the line.
Pelosi also speaks by phone with Vice President Mike Pence, who hid in a secure loading dock adjacent to the Capitol complex but never departed during the entire incursion.
“We’re trying to figure out how to get the job (of certifying the Electoral College) done today,” says Pelosi. Officials told the congressional brass it may take days to secure the Capitol. Leaders grew worried that any delay certifying the Electoral College results could pose questions as to who won the election.
Online conspiracy theories have suggested video shot by Alexandra Pelosi was staged. The theorists argue that it seemed a little too convenient that the speaker’s daughter just happened to be at the Capitol and whisked away to safety with her mother when all hell broke loose.
It may seem like a coincidence. But it’s not that uncommon to see Alexandra Pelosi walking the halls of the Capitol, shooting video footage of her mother. In fact, yours truly even lodged a formal complaint with the House Radio/TV Gallery in 2008 questioning why Alexandra was allowed to shoot video in various locations around the Capitol which are customarily off-limits for credentialed media to wield cameras.
But Alexandra and her camera are a ubiquitous presence – especially when the speaker is in town or big events are unfolding at the Capitol.
Years ago, one could spot Alexandra with a small, silver, handheld camera, running ahead of her mother in the hall or appearing in the back of a room. But as cameras evolved, so did Alexandra’s shooting equipment. Like many people now, Alexandra may just shoot video with an iPhone when walking in the Capitol corridors.
Lots of people shoot video in the U.S. Capitol. Tourists. Journalists. Aides. Cameras are all over the place. So it’s natural that some of us may not notice when someone is shooting since it’s so pervasive.
In his first public comments since last week’s hearing, Schumer said he and other congressional leaders “didn’t know” Alexandra Pelosi “was reporting until the news came out. It was news to me until it came out in the hearing.”
Alexandra Pelosi came to the Capitol on Jan. 3, 2021. Per the Constitution, that’s the day each Congress begins and the House and Senate swear in members. It’s usually a big festival with children and family members. However, COVID-19 muted last year’s festivities.
At the beginning of a new Congress, the House’s first order of business is to elect a speaker. Alexandra has documented her mother’s ascension to the speakership on three previous occasions. That includes January 2007, when the House elected Pelosi as the institution’s first female speaker.
Alexandra brought her two teenage sons with her on Jan. 3, 2021. The family decided to stay through Jan. 6 – the day Congress certifies the Electoral College votes.
Pelosi said this was for the grandsons “to see a lesson in civics on how we have a peaceful transfer of power.”
But the footage Alexandra shot of her mother that day was anything but.
The crowd broke into the Capitol shortly after the House began tabulating the electoral votes. U.S. Capitol Police rushed Pelosi – and her family – away from Capitol Hill to Fort McNair once marauders stormed the building.
The midterm elections are three weeks away. The Capitol is rife with speculation about Pelosi’s future. Does she stay or does she go?
The video Alexandra shot that day showed her mother at her most resolute. Steadfast. Pelosi was determined to restore order at the Capitol and finish the job of certifying the electoral vote. It’s plausible that the video could make the case for Pelosi to stay on as speaker or minority leader after this election – if she wants to.
It’s far from clear what Pelosi wants to do – or what fellow Democrats want her to do.
But one thing is clear. If Nancy Pelosi leaves Congress, Alexandra will leave the halls of Congress, too. Alexandra will take with her a voluminous library of footage, documenting her mother.
And perhaps down the line, the public may get to see some of that film, too. A documentary about the first female speaker of the House.